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When Peter Berg agreed in September 2009 to adapt the board game Battleship for Universal, he struck a deal with the studio: if he made their giant blockbuster based on a board game, they'd let him make the movie he really wanted to make, about a Navy SEAL team ambushed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. It's the kind of "one for you, one for me" deal that landed Christopher Nolan his huge Inception budget or allowed Zack Snyder to run wild on Sucker Punch, a studio's way of keeping a director happy by greenlighting projects that might not be that successful. But now that a team of Navy SEALs have in fact killed Osama bin Laden, Berg's project is looking a whole lot more commercial, and the studio is moving forward with the project that Berg thought might not actually happen.
In a relatively extensive interview with Deadline, Berg acknowledged that "Bin Laden's death has cleared the way for this," the movie called Lone Survivor and based on the book by Marcus Luttrell. Luttrell was one of four SEAL team members captured by the Taliban on a mission to kill a terrorist leader; as Berg explained to Deadline, "The mission was similar to the assassination mission that got bin Laden, but things got complicated when they ran into three kids and an old man," he said. "Under the rules of engagement, they could have killed them, but they decided to let them go and take their chances, even though they knew these people would likely talk."
Berg has already talked to his Battleship star Taylor Kitsch about playing one of the SEAL team members, and is meeting with other actors as we speak. He compared the project to Black Hawk Down and also described it as "an unapologetically patriotic film that honors and pays homage to an incredible group of badass guys who do this." The movie will start shooting in January, just a few months before Battleship finally proves itself in theaters on May 18, but a few months after Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal will get statred on their own Navy SEAL project, which is actually called (or at least was called at one point) Kill Bin Laden. The two films will likely be very different, but who knows if Bigelow and Boal appreciate the big studio competition as they set up their own meticulously researched film.
For moviegoers, though, especially those of us who have been fascinated by the fearless Navy SEALs in the last few weeks, it's really just an embarrassment of riches. Berg has plenty of talent to spare and sounds incredibly passionate about the project, while Bigelow and Boal already proved their prowess with war movies in The Hurt Locker. After years of movies about the Middle East and the twin wars there failed to catch on at the box office, it may finally be their time to succeed.